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PUBLISHED: 3:54 PM on Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Location, weather may change, but newspapers connect communities

What a difference a year makes. This week marks my one year anniversary of being in Alaska.

As I made the trip north a year ago, all I could think about was how different it was from the prairie land where I came from in the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles.

I suppose there is something about the road less traveled that I've always liked.

I have always gone for the underdog, and now I see that has to do with my upbringing. As most people know it's nearly impossible to describe Southeast Alaska to those who have not been here.

It is just as difficult to describe the rural areas of the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles. I usually tell people I'm from Texas because it's easiest, but I grew up in Oklahoma - in that stretch of land that jets out like a pointed finger.

I then went 150 miles directly south to Canyon, Texas to attend West Texas A&M University. To me the areas are one in the same.

It's rural prairie land. Both panhandles are much different and isolated from the larger and more populated southern parts of the states.

The climate is the same - harsh and unpredictable. It's called the high plains as the land sits at an elevation of about 3,000 feet and is flat enough that one can see about 100 miles or farther at times. One can never predict what the weather will do. I've seen sunny, warm Thanksgivings in November, and I've seen snow in May - both unusual, but it happens. It goes along with droughts, tornadoes and hailstorms.

I was briefly trying to describe it to a friend a couple of weeks ago when I mentioned that I was hoping it doesn't snow when I visit my family in November. He seemed to have a difficult time understanding how it could snow in Texas.

I tried to explain the climate and location and elevation. I tried to explain how far apart the towns are.

When I told him I lived in the country, it meant that I lived 20 miles from the nearest town, our closest neighbors were miles away and fields and cattle surrounded my home.

I finally told him that it was like a modern day "Little House on the Prairie." As I said it, I realized how true it is.

The entire area is a place where everyone relies on one another for survival.

As different at the prairie is from Alaska - similarities do exist.

People have to come together to help one another in the trying environments and isolation. This is where a newspaper comes in handy. This form of media brings us together to understand each other and bring us together as a community.

It is a way to connect with those who are different from us, but who share the land we call home.

Last week I was in Ketchikan for the Southeast Conference. As I met people from across the region, I introduced myself by saying that I was from Juneau. It was a first for me, and I liked it.

I've spent the year trying to get a feel for my new surroundings - to be part of the community. Now it's time to take the next step, and I hope the readers of the Capital City Weekly will take it with me.

This publication is distributed throughout Southeast Alaska, and it should reflect that. Share your news with me and with others throughout Southeast Alaska. The office might be physically in Juneau, but it also is for those in Ketchikan, Sitka, Haines, Angoon, Yakutat and many more communities. Don't be shy in telling us what you want to see in the paper - call with story ideas, e-mail photos or write a letter. I want to hear from you and work with you to ensure your community is represented.

Just as the people of the high plains prairie are spread out over many miles and depend on one another for information and assistance, Southeast Alaska is the same. It also is my new home. I've spent my first year getting to know this area, and I want to spend the next learning about each community and highlighting the people there.

Gragert is the editor of Capital City Weekly.


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